Postcard from Burma

Invitation Day.

The vassa, or rains retreat, ended on the last full moon day, October
3. The tradition as defined by the Buddha is to stay put at a
monastery for three months during the rainy season, rather than to
travel from monastery to monastery. On the last day of the retreat,
is Invitation Day. On virtually every full moon day bhikkhus and
bhikkhunis recite the Precepts, but not on the last day of the rains.
Instead the Buddha set it up so that on that one day each year each
monk invites criticism from every other monk, basically, Where Have I
Failed in My Actions During the Last Year? It is a good idea, but this
has become rather perfunctory in Burma; no one here likes to
criticize anybody else (Can you imagine that?). And in fact, to
perform the ceremony, the eighty monks from Sitagu walked to another
monastery where over four hundred monks convened.

Newly Old.

In the last episode, Bhikkhu Cintita was still pondering the Three
Responses to Old Age. He had rejected the originally favored Hang onto
Your Youth, as foolish and ultimately futile, in favor of Old and
Bitter Despair, which he looked forward to doing With Flair, with a
Penetrating Frown and a Horrifying Glare. Bloggers from around the …
uh … Austin sat at their computer screens saying, "Don't do It,
Bhante, don't become a Bitter Old Man," and "No, Not Bhikkhu Cintita."
As we visit Bhikkhu Cintita today he is imagining How It will Be.
Let's listen in:

I've been practicing my Frown and Glare since I posted my last blog,
and it is working! Wigglet is no longer coming to my door, relieved
instead by the mangiest mongrels of Sagaing, MY kinda dog . By next
month I should be able to peal paint and wilt flowers as I walk by.
Haha. If I have to be a Bitter Old Man, I'm going to do it right. By
next vassa my mere presence will pop meditators right out of Samadhi
into a thicket of unwholesome impulses.

… but wait, what am I thinking? Am I not just replacing one Self with
another, the Young with the Old, then clinging equally to the new
(Old)? Do I really think I can find satisfaction with the Old (new)
Self, any more than I could with the old (Young )? Is not the new
(Old) equally subject to dissolution? Oh, Impermanence, What Vexation
Have You Wrought? And what would the Buddha say? One of his monks
turning into a modern (new but Old) Mara. Besides, I can see that this
Bitter Old Man bit will wear thin pretty quickly. "Oh, Wigglet!
Wigglett!"

And thus does Bhikkhu Cintita reject the Second along with the First
of the Three Responses to Old Age, leaving only the Third, The Middle
Way. … to be continued.

Lao Monk.

I have been helping my friend Ven. Jitamaro in his ambition to become
a missionary in the West. Jitamaro is from Laos, and has been my
primary English student. He comes to practice with me every day, and
has been my assistant in my teaching activities. He is 31 years old,
but has completed 10 vassas. He is interested in contributing to the
development of Buddhism in America, and in learning English more
thoroughly. I am interested in seeing monks like him come to America
to help establish a stronger monastic sangha and to become teachers.
"Like him," means young and personable. I think he could learn to
communicate the Dharma well to Westerners. Anyway, I discovered that
for a monk to come to the USA he needs a Religious Worker (R) visa,
which can be granted if a religious institution (monastery) invites
him to come. He is sending email inquiries to the Lao temples in the
USA we have scared up on the Web, and will then try Thai temples (he
speaks Thai as well), the Vietnamese (he doesn't speak Vietnamese) and
Sri Lankan (… nor Sinhalese).

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